China Radio International in English: Where’s the Flavor?

This summer, I tuned into a news broadcast on shortwave, and for several minutes, I thought I was listening to the Voice of America (VoA). However, I was listening to an English program by China Radio International (CRI). This probably wouldn’t have happened if the focus hadn’t been on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey, but on Sino-American relations or on Taiwan, for example. But the reading style was exactly the same as on VoA.

When China is the topic, you can obviously see the difference between a VoA and a CRI program. But the style in which issues are reported is still much the same. That hasn’t always been the case.

When I listened to CRI many years ago (Radio Beijing or Radio Peking back then), it was a different story. The way the programs were presented was much more formal and sort of “stiff”. Above all, the wordings were different, there were few (if any) jingles within, and no bits of original recordings of what was originally Chinese, and only translated into English later.

One can say that CRI’s English programs have become livelier. But they have hardly become more authentic. I liked the “stiff” formats much better, and the changes at CRI English are one more reason for me to listen to the Chinese service instead. They have changed, too, but they are more “Chinese”. If I want to listen to a VoA-style program, I prefer the original. I don’t need CRI for that.

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